St David’s Day thoughts

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant hapus!

In celebration of St David’s day, I had a bit of a search for Cambrian-themed entries in the Old Bailey archives.

The archives give much evidence of the presence of a large and Welsh-speaking Welsh community in eighteenth and nineteenth century London. There are several early eighteenth century adverts for Welsh Books, particularly religious works. (e.g. OA17041220), evidence of Welsh charitable activity and organisations like schools and chapels (e.g. t17310428-16, t17910413-27, see also Community cohesion only went so far, however, and when a Welsh woman pleaded in Welsh for another Welsh woman to save her from being taken up for theft – she was unsiccessful (t17940219-31,)

There are numerous examples of individuals speaking Welsh only or having limited command of English. A prisoner might have to have an interpreter at his trial (t18890204-246). In one case, a man’s inability to speak English seems to have slowed down medical assistance, after he had been stabbed (t17381286-38). In 1746, Jane Evans’s lack of English told against her when she tried to argue that she had planned to buy the two English-language books (including Milton’s Paradise Lost) which she was accused of stealing (t17460226-17). Others were disbelieved when they claimed not to be able to speak English (see, e.g. t17800112-23 and t17870912-48, in which a rape complainant struggles with English and seems to be mocked or put down by Garrow).

Mockery and insult of the Welsh is not hard to find. The old Welsh woman murder victim in t17340227-51 seems to have been mocked by the murderer, and being Welsh was used as an insult or a matter for teasing in several cases (e.g. t17660514-25, t18210718-76, t18410614-1705). The barbarous nature of the Welsh was assumed by those buying Bibles to ‘make the Welsh and highlanders Christians’ (OA17450726). Even in 1910, we see being Welsh equated with being a liar (t19100718-35). Useful and often commercially successful as they were, the Welsh had much to put up with in the alien world of Llundain.